If you've ever caught an episode of Last Ten Pounds Boot Camp, you have an idea of what this type of fat-burning fitness is about: the participants grunt, groan, complain and advance through the regime, and by the end they've got tighter assets, a newfound passion for fitness, and likely a new clothing size to shop for.
It's the beginning of a New Year and as is often the case this season, people are looking to either invigorate their exercise routine ““ or actually begin one. Bootcamp fitness programs have become the go-to program if you want to sweat, shed pounds and feel great about yourself because they're known for their intense, concentrated full body movement and mix of military training-like elements.
Bootcamps are one of the most efficient ways to work your entire body in one 60-minute class. The heart and muscles get pumping while you move from one exercise to the next with little rest. Intensity is the idea: you have to challenge our body to its limits, and then some, to burn off those Christmas calories.
Though each class will incorporate different overall exercises and movements, a typical class (usually no more than 15 people), can include: a skills portion to go over the moves that will be done during the class, a five to ten minute warm-up, a gratifyingly-grueling workout that could have you doing push presses, box jumps, squats, lunges, speed training, sprints, obstacle courses, partner exercises, core strength exercise, plyometrics (designed to produce fast, powerful movements), skipping, and interval training (high bursts of energy followed by periods of rest). Then, there's a cool-down that you'll be begging for. Keep in mind you're moving your entire body the entire time.
“It's also about being involved in a group setting for those who need a social commitment to motivate them to continue with their workouts,” explains Brigitte Blais, owner of Cardiocore Fitness in Burlington. “They form a supportive network that encourages one another to show up and work hard.”
Most of us know that working out is a challenge in itself ““ there's motivation to even lace up your shoes and get out the door (especially when most of us feel the gravitational pull to cocoon at home because it's so dark by 5 p.m.) Finding a method that works, and also trainers that work with you (not against you) is key. “Our trainers work with you based on your own abilities to help you progress to a different level of fitness,” says Blais. They will challenge you with functional training movements that take place in everyday life, through circuits, intervals, agility drills, strength training, and stretching.”
Her team's philosophy revolves around promoting a quality of life concept achieved by continuous fitness and nutritional education and exercise training. Blais holds certifications in Cardiocore Coach conditioning, is a Can-Fit-Pro professional trainer and fitness instructor as well as runner/triathlon enthusiast and figure competitor with 20 years of experience in the fitness industry.
Crossfit Altitude, located in Burlington, runs eight-week bootcamp classes, three times a week for one hour. Their bootcamps are designed for beginners to fitness, or for those who've been away from (or avoiding) exercise for some reason. “We start at a very basic level because what we're trying to do is get people moving,” says co-owner Jen Morris, who is a Level One Certified Crossfit Trainer, a Can-Fit-Pro trainer, NCCP in Olympic weightlifting and speed skating, with a Masters Degree in Nutrition. “The first benefit is to just get moving, your joints mobilized and your muscles working.”
Classes often run in different segments to keep the body guessing. You may be doing one activity for ten minutes, then move onto something different for the next ten ““ they could be timed or require a number of repetitions or rounds of exercises in a fixed amount of time (all the while working as hard as you can). Morris also incorporates an intense 15 to 20 minute portion. “People ask me how you can get a good workout in 20 minutes. Believe me, you can,” she states.
Cardiocore holds three sessions over four weeks locally in convenient facilities, such as the Tansley Woods and Brant Hills Community Centres, or outdoor spaces, or a combination of the two. Classes may use equipment such as medicine balls, kettle bells, boxes (for box jumps) and dumbbells, pull-up bars or rings. For advanced workouts, Morris uses Olympic weightlifting bars and Olympic weights, though the main focus is on your own body weight. “We are the machines,” she says. “There are at least 2,000 different exercises you can do with those pieces of equipment.”
There are about as many benefits to bootcamp as there are moves in a bootcamp class. It's a great way to burn a lot of calories; it's efficient because you work your whole body during one class; it's fun (you'll be too busy during that 60 minutes to be bored); you can make it as challenging as you want it to be; you'll learn something new during each class; and achieving total health. “There's feeling healthy but then there's also feeling healthy but also being truly fit,” says Morris.
Of course, then there are the changes to your body, and mind. “Generally it's more of a feeling that they're able to do more,” explains Morris. “Their capacity in other walks of life will increase: whether it be going for a walk, playing with the kids or lifting heavy objects. Suddenly they feel more agile up and down the stairs. The day to day things people are doing, they'll feel like those things are easier.”
Overall, the goal shouldn't really be to lose weight, it's to have people feeling better about their bodies. Weight is just a number on a scale. “If you're fixated on weight alone you could be forever disappointed, says Morris. In reality, people will experience a conversion in their bodies from fat to muscle. Fat takes up more space in the body whereas muscle weighs more than fat. Having your bootcamp instructor take before and after photos is a much better indication of your progress. Cardiocore's trainers will provide you with personalized advice as you progress through your workout. “They follow up with members requests personally, ensuring members get the information they want to stay motivated to succeed,” says Blais.
All ready to go out and start kicking some butt at the nearest bootcamp? Take a few things into consideration first. At the very minimum, Morris recommends an instructor have either a Canfit Pro of Crossfit Level One certification. Before signing up, good studios will have you run through some sort of fitness testing or baseline workout to see if the program is appropriate for you.
You should feel safe in the environment where you'll be exercising ““ you shouldn't be asked to do anything unsafe. “There's a difference between (feeling unsafe) and feeling uncomfortable in the workout,” says Morris. “One of our expressions is get comfortable with being uncomfortable because if you're feeling comfortable with a workout it probably means you're not working hard enough. You have to go to your limit and push beyond that.”
Also, don't look at price as the determining factor. Check out the trainer's credentials; even sit in on a class to see what that person's teaching style is like. Class size is something to watch for, too.
“You will not get immediate results,” explains Blais. “We don't use gimmicks or make unrealistic promises. What we do promise is that when you stick with it we'll gradually improve your level of fitness and you'll probably be in the best shape of your life ““ from the inside out. In fact, our goal is to make you a believer for life.”
At the end of a class you'll feel totally satisfied that you kicked your own butt (with some help, of course). Sure, you'll wake up so sore some days it may even be a chore to get out of bed, but that's progress for you. Bet you'll totally look forward to your next session.